I’ll be the first to admit that I am very, very late to the Mayday Parade bandwagon. Mayday Parade are a band that I would recognize on Warped Tour and the Punk Goes-compilations, tour announcements with other pop-punk bands that I enjoy, and now the new excitement of being inked to a label that truly is passionate about the artists they sign. Rise Records are getting a great piece of music to market from the Tallahassee, Florida quintet.
Before the release of Sunnyland, the group released the well-received Black Lines. As a casual fan of the group, I found the change in styles refreshing, rather than hindering what I always felt the group was capable of making: a solid rock album with killer hooks from start to finish.
With the previous disclaimer in mind, Sunnyland is a record I always felt pop-punk veterans New Found Glory were capable of making, but due to the original lukewarm reaction to a similar style album (Coming Home), they decided to not take as big as of a risk on subsequent releases. However, that does not detract at all away from how much I enjoyed Sunnyland from start to finish, as it brings its own unique blend to the genre.
The first single released, “Piece Of Your Heart,” features more prominently placed keys and acoustic guitars, while still not forgetting to crank up the noise in the choruses. Sanders sings, “And all I know is that I want it more than yesterday/If I was waiting, I was waiting for just one little spark/You are the brightest I’ve seen, you are the best side of me/And just for when we’re apart, I’ve got a piece of your heart.” It’s a nice choice for the first single, as it tells an interesting story of leaving their troubles behind and moving forward in a relationship.
The album opener, “Never Sure,” reminded me of why I fell in love with pop-punk in the first place: solid drums (courtesy of Jake Bundrick), catchy break-neck hooks, and sing-a-long choruses to belt out with the windows down on a nice summer evening drive. Judging from the album artwork and packaging, I believe that is exactly what Mayday Parade were going for. They have made a killer summer soundtrack with long-lasting value.
The album sequencing is done intelligently here, for when the tempo drops down a step or two, the band knows just when to crank up the sound again to keep their listeners engaged. “Is Nowhere” finds Bundrick helping keep the frenetic beat going, while vocalist Derek Sanders continues to shine throughout the track, and album as a whole. Not to mention, the double guitar attack of Brooks Betts (rhythm) and Alex Garcia (lead) continue to blend well with the occasional backing of Sanders’ keyboards.
Following this track, “Take My Breath Away” is a clever acoustic ballad that is played and composed beautifully by the entire crew. Sanders continues to wear his heart of his sleeve with earnest lyrics such as, “I’m terrified ’cause I’ve lost my fear of doubt/But the war is over now/So break me down, if it makes you feels alright/Shake me off, if it helps you sleep at night/Hold me down in the river, take my breath away.” The harmonies found on this track are particularly well-done, as bassist and co-vocalist Jeremy Lenzo meshes nicely with Sanders’ style here.
“Stay the Same” is another nice mid-tempo song that gradually builds up to a strong chorus, much like bands such as The Maine and All Time Low, have made a solid career of. My favorite track, “How Do You Like Me Now,” is sure to be a new crowd favorite as it immediately calls for the listeners’ attention and you would be hard-pressed to find a better pop-punk breakdown than on this track.
“Where You Are” reminded me a lot of William Ryan Key’s Thirteen EP, but the track still keeps the elements of Mayday Parade’s songwriting style unique enough to stand on its own. “If I Were You” demands to be played in the last few mosh pits on the Vans Warped Tour, and has a ton of great breakdowns to keep the energy moving on the LP. Even as Mayday Parade continue to sway back and forth from the aforementioned energetic track to a mid-tempo “builder” such as they do on “Satellite,” it only rewards the listener for continuing on their journey with them.
The last two tracks, “Always Leaving” and “Sunnyland” help bring closure to a very rewarding listening experience. The closing track in particular finds Sanders at his most reflective, as he recalls his childhood and what made him who he is today. Lyrics such as, “I thought back to the years that we played baseball/How I tried, but I struck out so many times/But then once I hit the ball and sailed over the fence/I felt my gut all fill up with pride/So take me back to Sunnyland, so I can find the light again,” reminded me of the reflective tone of Yellowcard’s brilliant Southern Air album, and I can only hope Mayday Parade find similar breakthrough success on this album. Mayday Parade may not have invented pop-punk, but they are getting closer and closer to perfecting it.